116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
’Tis the season.
Or, at least, it’s about that time of year when many celebrate Christmas and all say goodbye to one year and hello a new one.
It’s also the season to reflect, to look back on what 2021 brought us.
In our little corner of the world — aka sports and mainly Eastern Iowa sports — 2021 felt kind of normal after a very abnormal 2020.
We had the end of winter sports with championships won and lost. We had spring sports in high school and college. We had summer baseball and softball for the preps.
We had an exciting fall with football running as usual. And we’re off to a relatively quiet, albeit exciting, start to the winter seasons.
As is traditional with many media outlets, it’s time to take a look at what 2021 brought us.
This is an annual plea, but I’d really like to hear from you, our newspaper and online readers. What were your favorite stories of 2021? What were the biggest events — the unseen failures, the exceeded expectations, the thrilling moments?
I can help refresh your memories a bit. But I need mine kicked into gear, too. A lot happens in 365 days — even in our tiny corner of the world — and last winter seems like a long time ago.
Here are some stories to ponder as we inch closer to 2022 with anticipation and, I hope, a little hope for better days ahead.
The Iowa men’s and women’s basketball teams kicked off 2021 concluding outstanding seasons, led by All-Americans Luka Garza and Caitlin Clark.
Garza was an expected star, earning numerous player of the year honors after a breakout season the year before. Clark was kind of an unknown to many, but she quickly became a national story with her competitiveness and, of course, her talent.
A year after having its season halted on the eve of the NCAA Championships in 2020, the Iowa wrestling team captured the long anticipated national title. The Hawkeyes also won their second straight Big Ten title.
And Spencer Lee added to his legend, capturing his third national crown despite an ACL tear.
On the high school mats, West Delaware swept the Class 2A duals and traditional titles.
Spring brought more success for the Hawkeyes. After capturing the Big Ten men’s track and field indoor championship, Iowa won the outdoor, too. It was the Hawks’ first title sweep since 1963.
Mid-Prairie won a girls’ state track and field title and, in the summer, the Marion baseball team was crowned state champion along with the Western Dubuque and North Linn softball teams.
We’re coming off a fall where the Iowa football team won 10 regular-season games despite an offense that was, well, underwhelming. It got hammered by Michigan in the Big Ten championship game, but is prepping for a bit of redemption against Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.
Iowa State, with sky-high expectations, stumbled a bit and finished 7-5, but lost those five games by a total of 29 points. The Cyclones are bowling for the fifth straight year, taking on Clemson in the Cheez-It Bowl.
Not to shabby.
There were no state champions in high school football, but West Delaware and Western Dubuque captured state volleyball crowns.
So far this winter, the Iowa wrestling team is looking like the top-ranked team in the country and Iowa State men’s basketball team, under first-year coach T.J. Otzelberger, has made a remarkable turnaround.
And let’s not forget one of the bigger stories of the year, one that hasn’t produced any results — yet. Iowa became the first Power Five school to add women’s wrestling as a varsity sport and, in November, hired Olympian Clarissa Chun to lead the program.
Cornell College, with a storied history in collegiate wrestling, announced, it too, was adding women’s wrestling.
High school girls across the state — across the country — are cheering this news and teams at all levels are growing from the ground up.
Watching this new version of an old sport take off has been, possibly, the story of the decade.
So what do you think? I’m sure I missed some stories, some events, some performances. Let me know.
We’ll do this again soon — but with a little more clarity.
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